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Fundamental Islamism in Bangladesh
Where is Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury?
By Judi McLeod
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
What was the July 18 court fate of journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, who single-handedly reported on the rise of fundamental Islamism in Bangladesh?
Was the courageous Choudhury silently thrown back into solitary confinement in the same prison that already cost him his sight in one eye?
Why is the silence from the Government of Bangladesh so deafening on the night after today's scheduled trial?
When mainstream newspapers refused to carry his investigative reports about the kindergarten madrasses springing up in his home country, Choudhury founded his own English-language newspaper, The Weekly Blitz, handed out in local markets and published online to an international readership since May 2003.
Threats against his life were routine.
Then on November 29, 2003 Choudhury was arrested at Zia International Airport, as he was about to board a Bankok-bound flight to attend an international peace conference in Tel Aviv.
That was to be his last taste of freedom for the next nightmarish 17 months.
Airport officials told him that he was suspected of carrying sensitive information on Bangladesh abroad. Rumours circulating in Saudi Arabia indicated that he was Mossad.
"I was surprised, shocked and stunned," said Choudhury at the time.
"They searched my luggage and finally discovered some copies of Weekly Blitz, an introductory brochure of Blitz Publications, $3,000 (US) cash and personal belongings."
That none of the confiscated belongings were ever to be returned to him were the least of his problems.
The journalist believes that sources behind his arrest included former Home Minister Alrtaf Hussain Chowdhury (now in jail on corruption charges) and former Home Secretary Omar Farooq (Member of Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh). Both men are well connected to radical Islamist forces in Bangladesh.
Branded as an "Israeli spy", Choudhury was interrogated by police for seven consecutive days.
Slight in stature, the bespectacled Choudhury was repeatedly tortured.
"They did not hesitate to torture me with electric shock and other forms of severe torture," Choudhury said. "My answers, always the same, further angered them. The only reason I was traveling to Israel was to attend a Peace Conference. They told me it was not allowed for any Bangladeshi national to visit Israel as the passport of the Republic prohibits its citizens from visiting that country."
Following interrogation, Choudhury was sent to Dhaka Central Jail in a cell specifically built for the mentally insane.
When the New York Times published an editorial decrying the nature of his confinement, Choudhury was moved to an isolated cell with a 40-watt light bulb. His cellmates included pro-bin Laden and pro-Saddam Hussein prisoners who twice tried to assassinate him.
During his 17-month incarceration Choudhury was refused medicine for the glaucoma from which he suffers and lost the sight of one eye as a result. He was flatly denied leave to attend the funeral services of his mother, who was stricken with a massive heart attack.
With the help of Congressman Mark Steven Kirk and American Professor Richard Benkin, Choudhury was finally released on April 30, 2005.
But his life on the outside was marked by escalating violence.
Even two years even after his release, and despite the fact of a 409-1 Resolution in the U.S. Congress, as well as formal support for Choudhury from the European Parliament, the Government of Bangladesh has failed to drop the false charges of sedition, treason and blasphemy against him.
His tormentors followed through with their threats to bomb his office in July of 2006, and pro-BNP thugs allegedly assaulted him in October of the same year. His brother, Sohail was followed and beaten, his wife and children threatened and his reputation was challenged with continuous false leaks to the media.
When his brother reported his brutal attack, police told him "that's what those with an alliance with Jews can expect".
When an unbroken Shoaib Choudhury was brought back to court on June 28, the prosecution admitted there was not enough evidence against him to sustain the case. But the judge, associated with a radical Islamist party, ruled the sedition trial against him would continue.
Facing a judicial system weighted heavily against him, Choudhury, whose only crime is his pro-Israel stance, was go to on trial for his life on July 18.
This was to be a trial on charges of treason, sedition and blasphemy without benefit of jury. The only penalty is death by hanging or 30 years in prison, which some say is in fact, really a death sentence.
As the trial day approached, those trying to help Choudhury were asking people to "urgently" contact their Senators, Congressmen and the political leaders in countries around the world.
(In Canada, to find your representatives, go to: http://www.canada.gc.ca/main e.html.
In the United States, go to: www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml.
Additional information about Shoaib may be found at www.interfaightstrength.com.)
But it's already the night after the trial in Bangladesh and there's no word on either the Internet or from the mainstream media about the fate of Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury.
The world should knock loudly on the door of the Government of Bangladesh.
A question should be shouted from western rooftops: Where is Shoaib Choudhury?
Canada Free Press founding editor Most recent by Judi McLeod is an award-winning journalist with 30 years experience in the print media. Her work has appeared on Newsmax.com, Drudge Report, Foxnews.com, Glenn Beck. Judi can be reached at: [email protected]
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